Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Republican Lawmaker exposed his Anti Latino sentiment.

A recent comment by a North Carolina lawmaker comparing Undocumented immigrants to prostitutes and drug dealers first inflamed his local Latino community, and now the anger has spilled into Mexico.

Mexican politicians and residents are calling Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James' statements -- printed Friday in one of Mexico City's leading newspapers -- an example of growing hostility against Latinos in the United States.

James, a Republican, made the comments during an April 15 commissioners meeting while discussing government contracts and whether illegal immigrants pay taxes. Near the end of the talk, Commissioner Norman Mitchell, a Democrat, mentioned a recent Charlotte Observer article reporting that illegal immigrants paid taxes.
James interjected that prostitutes and drug dealers also pay taxes. ''Al Capone paid taxes,'' he said.

James said Thursday his comments were meant to show that immigrants, prostitutes and drug dealers all engage in illegal activity.

''You're breaking the law, you need to get right with the law,'' James said. ``It doesn't have anything to do with whether your hair is blond, brown or black. It doesn't matter what your skin color is, your eyes, whatever.''

The controversy over James' comments reached Mexico at a time of growing concern about anti-immigrant feelings damaging U.S.-Mexico relations. Mexican President Felipe Calderón in February denounced sentiments in the United States that he said characterize ``Mexicans as the enemy.''

José Jacques Medina, a member of Mexico's lower house of Congress, said this is not the first time he has heard about James. He also said he's aware of the commissioner's proposals to deny county services to undocumented immigrants.

''This is just racism, comparing us to prostitutes and narcotraffickers, in order win votes,'' said Jacques Medina, secretary of the commission on Population, Border and Migratory Affairs.

Oscar Avila, a 19-year-old pen salesman in Mexico City, struggled to understand James' feelings. He said he's aware of opposition to undocumented workers in the United States but said he had never heard such ''strong'' comments that compare an entire community to criminals.

''He's just discriminating against the people,'' said Avila. ``He's calling people, who are just trying to make a better life for themselves, narcotraffickers. That's not right.''

The controversy took hold this week in Charlotte's Latino community and has been the focus of most reports and stories on local Spanish language radio and newspapers.

''No one has been talking about anything else but Bill James,'' said Rafael Prieto, editor of Mi Gente Spanish language newspaper in Charlotte. An image of Mi Gente's front-page story on James' comments was reproduced in Mexico City's El Universal Newspaper -- featured prominently next to stories about the U.S. presidential campaign.

German De Castro, chair of the Hispanic Democrats of Mecklenburg County, has demanded that James apologize for making blanket statements that inflame feelings against the immigrant community.

''What if you had two girls, 16 and 19 years old, and he called them prostitutes?'' asked De Castro. ``That's what he did. He said all the women were prostitutes. And all the men were drug dealers. How are you going feel? You're going to be irate.''

James said had no intention of issuing an apology.

''Why would I owe someone an apology for telling the truth?'' James said. ``I think that America needs to get a backbone. We have become a country of wimps. I'm not going to apologize for stating the truth. Period.''

While James' comments anger the Hispanic community, they likely will win support within his conservative base, said Ted Arrington, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. James represents one of the most conservative areas of Mecklenburg County.

''For them,'' Arrington said, ``this is red meat.''

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